There is a Monster Under My Bed- Surviving my First Earthquake in Costa Rica

It was about 9 pm when I started falling asleep Friday night. It was early but I had a long week and after one glass of Seville and tonic, I was done. I told my hubby, whom I’d been video-chatting with, I love you and called it a night. I’m a light sleeper and any light or sounds awaken me, so I put in one ear plug and covered my eyes with my blinders.

About 4 hours later, something scared me half to death. I was awakened to my bed being shaken. I felt it once and thought I was dreaming until, it happened again. This time I jumped up because I thought a monster was under my bed. Half asleep, I looked over at my vanity to see if anything had fallen over. Perhaps it was an earthquake, but I couldn’t see anything. The dogs outside were barking and then suddenly stopped. I checked under my bed, no demons there. I called Darryl and left him a message. Of course he didn’t answer, he was asleep. It was 1am here which meant 3am there. My heart was beating out of my chest and it took me 2 full hours, and 2 episodes of Making the Cut, to finally fall back to sleep.

Later that day, Darryl checked google for any record of Earthquakes in Costa Rica and there it was. At 12:53am, a 5.0 Magnitude Earthquake occurred in the North Pacific Ocean, 44 km South of San Isidro, Costa Rica. That was the monster that shook my bed side to side, woke me from my slumber and scared the shit out of me. The website www.volcanodiscovery.com provides alot of information on Earthquakes around the world. Check out this reporting from that website on earthquake occurrences in Costa Rica:

Past 24 hours8 quakes | 5 quakes M2+ | 3 quakes M3+
Past 7 days87 quakes | 43 quakes M2+ | 35 quakes M3+ | 4 quakes M4+ | 1 quake M5+
Past 30 days316 quakes | 157 quakes M2+ | 132 quakes M3+ | 18 quakes M4+ | 1 quake M5+
Past 90 days781 quakes | 340 quakes M2+ | 379 quakes M3+ | 50 quakes M4+ | 1 quake M5+
Past 365 days2,944 quakes | 1,148 quakes M2+ | 1,519 quakes M3+ | 226 quakes M4+ | 14 quakes M5+ | 3 quakes M6+
https://www.volcanodiscovery.com/earthquakes/costarica.html

The ironic thing is, we had an earthquake drill at my school just this week and my Director and I were just discussing our experiences with earthquakes on Friday morning. The only other earthquake I had ever experienced was in Philadelphia 11 years ago. I remember that earthquake clearly because I was in training at the first school I ever worked at. It was a 5.8 Mag earthquake that struck in Virginia and was felt pretty far up the East Coast.

I guess now is as good a time as ever to prepare an emergency bag. I had one prepared in Qatar when the Embargo occurred against Qatar by Saudi Arabia and talks of war were everywhere. No matter where you are in the world, it is always better to be prepared. Thankfully, I am ok and this was just an interesting, surprise experience in my new country. I just love my life!

Buying a Car in Costa Rica

Meet Skittles, my new road dog.

I’m so excited that I am now mobile in Costa Rica. It didn’t take long for me to realize that having a car here would be very helpful. The area around Santa Ana, where I live, is walkable however, in the rainy season, walking is not the best option. Also I really want to explore the country.

Skittles is the brightest colored car I have ever owned and it all started one day when I arrived at work. In the parking lot, I saw the cutest, small, lime green car and it instantly brought a smile to my face. It was at that moment that I decided I wanted a car that made me smile too. I wanted a car with personality, a bright colored car that would stand out.

Buying a car in a new country can seem daunting so here’s my experience and I hope it helps someone. The most common ways of finding a car here include: Facebook Marketplace, traveling to Grecia (an area filled with lots of car dealerships, reminds me of Passyunk avenue in Philadelphia, or a car mall), visiting local auto dealers and 2 popular websites: encuentra24 and crautos . Two of my coworkers went to Grecia and said they were overwhelmed. I had success using crautos.com.

Checking out a few cars and then taking a mechanic along with you when you find a car that you are very interested in, seems like the best choice. Thankfully, my schools H.R. department has connections and hooked me up with a mechanic. Skittles came from a private owner. The couple were/is super nice and bought the car to my condo for me to view and test drive. The mechanic also met at my condo. He charges a fee of 50,000₡ ($80) each time. Thankfully, I only needed to use him once. He completed a diagnostic check right there, took the car for a spin and then gave me his approval. I told the couple I wanted the car, negotiated a little and gave my verbal agreement of purchase. That was on Saturday. By Tuesday, my H.R. rep had arranged for our school lawyer to meet at the school, with the couple and myself to sign over the papers. The lawyer’s fee was 400,000₡ ($633). This seems expensive but it included everything needed for me to drive my new car home that same day.

So for the purchase of my used, 4×4, Hyundai Tucson Limited, mechanic check, change over and all paperwork, I spent approx $15,400. This does not include the car insurance, that I was not required to purchase straight away. I have been quoted 303,000₡ ($480) for the year, for full car insurance. This is insanely inexpensive compared to the U.S. I thought car insurance was cheap in Qatar, at approx $1100/year, but this is amazing. Full car insurance in Philadelphia is about $250/mth.

The most difficult part of the entire process was two-fold. 1) Finding a car, 2) Finding a way to pay for it, when the majority of my money is not here. My job was super helpful with the whole process and made it easier. So far, I am pretty happy with my choice. Let the adventures begin…

Adjusting to Life in Costa Rica- 1 Month in…

It’s been a little over 1 month since I’ve moved to Costa Rica and I have gone through all four stages of culture shock at different times and some at the same time. I’ve moved through most of the stages in moments rather than days. Stage 1: The Honeymoon stage- There have been times, when I have been extremely happy with the move. I do not regret my decision in the least. Stage 2: The Frustration stage- Banking was frustrating, as is trying to find a car, so is being unable to hold a conversation with my Uber driver because my Spanish is minimal, and being cancelled by my Uber driver after waiting 8 minutes. This stage comes and goes due to bouts of loneliness too. Stage 3: The Adjustment Stage- I think, this stage takes the longest because I am constantly adjusting, especially mentally. Stage 4: Acceptance- Although I go through all stages here and there, ultimately, I understand that I must accept what is so that I can thrive in my new environment. I will admit that the hardest part has been doing this completely alone, no friends, no family, no familiarity.

I’ve moved into my condo, aka- apartment. I haven’t lived in a place this small since my first apartment right out of high school. It’s a lovely, top floor, 1-bedroom apartment. Since it’s in the central valley, where most people are located, Santa Ana to be exact, it’s pretty expensive compared to some other parts of this country. My rent is $850/mth. My housing allowance is $800. During my search for my place, I was torn between the one I chose and a 2-bedroom that would have run me $300 additional per month. I settled on the less expensive 1-bedroom to give myself time to adjust financially. My condo grounds are immaculate, very green and clean. It has a nice pool and a gym.

My place is an hour walk from work, a 15-20 minute Uber ride or a 25+ minute bus ride. I’ve done all three. I prefer to walk to get my cardio in, which is the only exercise I’ve accomplished so far. But walking home from work has proven difficult in the rainy season, which is the season we are currently in and I would prefer not to exhaust myself and get sweaty before work. The bus is cheap, only $0.49 but it takes the longest time and taking it means being out the house an hour before I’m due at work. The bus is my least favorite mode of transportation, not because anything is wrong with it. I just don’t like to take public transportation anywhere and you have to leave so early to ensure you make it on time. I use Uber most days. It runs me about $5.00 each way. Sometimes it takes a while to secure an Uber and sometimes they even cancel on you, so while it is convenient due to door to door service, it’s not the best either. So in summary, I’m looking for a car.

But cars are expensive here, about $3-5,000 more than in the U.S. Kia and Hyundai seem to be the most common brands here. Once you leave the main roads, the others can be quite rocky and underdeveloped so I believe a truck would work best. I definitely don’t want to run into the same problems I had in Qatar with a vehicle. That American car cost me an arm, leg and mental anguish. I was so happy to be through with it. So now I’m taking my time and being smarter with my car buying decisions. Having my own car would be super helpful right now. My new country is absolutely beautiful and I want to get out there and explore it more.

One of things I love the most about Costa Rica is the flora and fauna. This place is the complete opposite of Qatar in that area. I look outside of the window of my workspace and see so much green.

Every morning, I am greeted by bird sounds that I’ve never heard before and a red breast squirrel even greeted me on my balcony twice. I’ve been on two hikes, so far, and couldn’t stop snapping pictures of colorful flowers, breathtaking views and natural beauty. I assume a mix of this crazy rainy season and the fertility of the volcanic ash makes this place what it is- a paradise to the eyes, and I haven’t even scratched the surface.

For my birthday weekend, I borrowed the school van, (yes this is allowed which is a wonderful perk) and along with two other teachers drove down to Jaco (pronounced Ha-kō) beach. The scenery along the drive was beautiful. We stayed only one night, and the beach wasn’t swimmable but still it was a lovely time. I spotted a black squirrel, several iguanas, and some leaf cutter ants on the hotel grounds. This past weekend, Darryl flew down and we took a tour to the Arenal volcano. On this tour, we visited the Tres Generationes coffee plantation and had the best coffee we ever tasted. We also visited the Cinchono Waterfalls, which is in the center of the Americas. I felt like I was back in Hawaii standing in front of this waterfall. It looked identical to the ones Darryl and I had seen on the road to Hana and for the first time, and for a brief moment, we both admitted that maybe we could stay here instead of moving to Hawaii. It was on this tour that I saw a sloth in person for the first time, along with some other animals and Darryl got attacked by a Couti. More on that in another post. We zip-lined through the rainforest and I repelled down a mountain. Needless to say, the last two weekends have been full of fun.

As for daily life, I get up, go to work, come home, video chat with my hubby, cook, watch tv. The same things I was doing before, just in a different place. Work is definitely different here. Some days I love it, others I don’t. I work longer hours than I have in years and I’m quite busy. Resources are less than what I’m used to and the power goes out from time to time. I’m making less money but so far I’m still able to save. The natives are very pleasant; everyone speaks and smiles. The children are sweet and affectionate but are not used to sitting still. I’m not in the classroom 100% of the time so that’s a plus. I haven’t quite found my footing as the ECE Coordinator yet, but hopefully that will change. It’s a new position for the school and for me so I kinda feel like I’m on trial and not really sure where I fit. I just remember why I’m here and make the most of it. Twice a week, I attend free Spanish classes after school, which are needed, because everyone does NOT speak English. Learning Spanish will make life easier here. My Spanish is improving because I try to use it as much as possible. I want to learn it. One of my only regrets about Qatar was not learning the language before I left. Sure it wasn’t necessary but it would have been nice and I don’t want to make that mistake twice.

Moving abroad has it peaks and valleys especially in the beginning. Some days are easy. Some days are tough. So if you’re wondering how I’m doing, I’m adjusting…

The Big Move to Costa Rica

July 9 was move day. With all the negative experiences people have been sharing about the airlines lately, it was a big concern. My flight had been changed prior from a PHL departure and short layover in Miami to a layover in Boston, then a longer layover in Miami with a next day arrival. This was not acceptable so I cancelled that flight on Jet Blue and rebooked another on United, non-stop to SJO from Newark Airport. There were some discrepancies on the weight and size limits of the baggage that I could take but in the end I used the information given to me over the phone by a representative. We were allowed a max of 2 checked bags, that we had to pay for, and 1 carry-on and personal item for free. At the advice of some other expats in a FB group I joined, I purchased some totes for odd shaped items. In total, I packed 2-62.4 dimensional containers, purchased from Lowes, 2 large suitcases, 2 medium suitcases, 2 small suitcases for carry-on and 2 backpacks as personal items. Darryl and I left with 10 total pieces of luggage, 8 which were mine. I paid $440 in total but I didn’t mind because I would be reimbursed by my job for relocation costs. A very nice United Airlines attendant helped us at the airport with rearranging our seats so that we were sitting together and in spacious seats. (Advice: wait to get to the airport and ask for seat changes rather than paying for them online)

We had to present proof of return flight, within 90 days, since we were going on a visit visa, which we would obtain on arrival. This is a Costa Rican rule. I cannot obtain my work visa until my FBI apostille comes back from Washington. The only two documents I was required to get authenticated for work in Costa Rica was my birth certificate and FBI background check. The Birth Certificate authentication is completed at the state office building, Harrisburg in my case. That was a simple task of simply driving up there, walking in and paying a small cash fee of $15.00. The FBI authentication is completed through the national office in D.C. and walk-ins are not accepted. I used the third party company ProEx again; the same one I used to get my documents authenticated for Qatar. Their services cost me $150 and takes approximately 4 weeks. I still plan on flying back home for the October break rather I have the document within 90 days or not.

Our flight departed only a few minutes late and was rather pleasant. Five hours is a whole lot less than the 12.5 hour flight I was used to taking to get to Qatar. Getting through immigration was easy. They simply asked where we were staying, stamped our passport and whisked us through. There are nice gentlemen in green shirts at baggage retrieval that can help you with your bags for $20. Containers like totes come out of the area marked with the number 1 all other baggage comes out of different baggage carousels. Minus 1 missing tote handle, all of our things arrived safely. Thankfully Darryl had the bright idea to zip tie the totes as extra security. The lines for customs was disheartening, however they moved quickly and we were out of the airport in under 30 minutes.

My new VP picked us up from the airport and she had a vehicle big enough for all of our stuff. She drove us to the Aloft hotel, where we would be staying until we found housing. In our room was a small gift bag with coffee, cookies and snacks from Costa Rica, cash of ¢150,000 ($215 approx.) and a prepaid phone with ¢30,000 ($43 approx.) credit for our use for the first few days.

After dropping off our baggage, Mrs. VP and family took us around the neighborhood and then to get something to eat. The restaurant is where I learned my first lesson about Costa Rica: I need to learn Spanish and fast…

10 Facts About my Next Home

Quick Read…

Written before the move…

Within a few days, I will be off to my new adventure. This summer was super short. I literally had 3 weeks off. I spent most of this time preparing for the move. In between, I did get in a 5 day trip to Panama (more on that coming up in a future post), some quality time with family and a little down time to do some research.  So, here are 10 facts about my soon to be new host country. 

  • A lot of people think Costa Rica is an island but actually it is not.  It is a part of Central America and borders Nicaragua on the north and Panama on the south. However, it does have several uninhabited islands.  Can’t wait to explore them. (costarica.org)

  • Costa Rica does not have a military. The Military was abolished in 1948, and money was reinvested in education, social security and health care.  The standard of living has been steadily on the rise since then, the country’s literacy rate is 98%, and the infant mortality rate is the second lowest in the region.  (ticotravel.com)

  • It is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, with 5% of the world’s biodiversity and 500,000 species of wildlife.  (trafalgar.com)

  • Costa Rica has a high life expectancy and is home to one of the 5 blue zones in the world, Nicoya.  (asuaire.com)

  • You can see the sunrise on the Caribbean side and sunset on the Pacific side in the same day (visitcostarica.com). It is possible to drive across the entire country and catch them both.

  • There are about 750,000 species of insects that live here, including 20,000 different spiders, and 10% of the worlds butterflies. (bahiaaventuras.com) I almost declined the offer to move here because of this fact .

  • There are more than 121 volcanic formations and seven active volcanoes. Most of the volcanoes are in the northern part of the country. (bahiaaventuras.com) Costa Rica’s soil is rich in minerals due to many eruptions over the past millennia.

  • The country is about the size of West Virginia or slightly smaller than Lake Michigan (puravidamoms.com)

  • It is the most visited country in Central America due to its rich biodiversity and ecotourism. (worldstrides.com)

  • Costa Rica was ranked one of the happiest country in the world in 2012. (hidden lemur.com)

Hopefully you enjoyed reading some facts about Costa Rica and learned something new. Do these facts motivate you to visit this country?

Chapter 2- Where to Next

If you never try, then you’re always left wondering…

Just because I left Qatar doesn’t mean I’m done.  And now that I’ve closed that chapter of my book, it’s time to start a new one.  So where is the setting of chapter 2?  That is the question.  Well it begins in another country, a little closer to my original home.  But before I get into that, I have to tell you where and how it began so that if you’re considering being adventurous like me, you will have an idea of where to begin. 

When I resigned from my job in Qatar, I actually had no idea where I was going.  I knew I didn’t want to stay in that country and apply to another school.  I just knew I wanted a change of scenery and a change in my position.

So I created a profile on Search Associates and was prepared to pay a fee for this but I lucked up with going through the UK division because it was free.  Creating a profile through them is relatively easy and you’re assigned a contact person.  Through Search Associates, I was able to see postings from schools all over the world.  For some I could apply directly through the website with just a cover letter and directing the hiring representative from the schools to my profile.  For others, I was directed to apply straight through the schools website.  I knew that finding a position in leadership would be more difficult than a typical teaching position and it proved to be very competitive.  Apparently a lot of teachers were displaced during Covid and were now seeking new opportunities.  Sure, I have a pretty good resumé with a competitive educational background but I lack in leadership experience within a school setting.  Most schools, I didn’t even hear back from.  I was only invited to a couple of interviews in leadership and wasn’t offered a position.  I even interviewed for a classroom position in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, if you call a virtual interview where you answer 3 questions and are recorded, an actual interview.  Needless to say, that didn’t pan out and it was probably for the best, as it wasn’t what I really wanted.  I only interviewed there because the pay was impressive and I have friends there.  Feeling defeated, I had resolved to go back home and take some time off.  I had been out of the interviewing game for a while, was making mistakes and was not used to hearing no. 

I was tired of applying and I was excited about going home for some respite and quality time with loved ones. 

But then, I saw this position with a significant lower pay than what I was used to but in a country that I’d considered retiring.  I didn’t know much about this country and still don’t really but I’ve heard some wonderful things.  I also did not know much about Qatar but that didn’t stop me and look how that turned out.  Not feeling very optimistic, I decided to apply.  Within a few days, I received a response from the Director of this school and I instantly had a good feeling.  We met on Google Meet and talked about the position, school, country, pay, etc… Next I interviewed with the Principal and Vice Principal.  The Vice Principal who happened to work in Qatar just a year prior.  Following this interview, I also interviewed with a panel of teachers.  This impressed me.  An organization that values the opinions of all, even those not in leadership, I wondered if this was real or just a facade.  Within a few weeks, I was offered the position of ECE Coordinator- Early Childhood Education Coordinator.  I went back and forth with my decision to just go home and take some time off or accept the position.  In the end I decided to accept.  This position may not come back around for me again, and if it doesn’t work out, then I can go home.  If you never try, then you’re always left wondering.

The pay was an issue too, but during my time in Qatar, where I was making significantly more, I spent most of that money on paying off bills which put me in a good position.  A position where I can accept a lower pay.  A position that I desire and can possibly catapult my career in different directions where I will be able to make more money later, if I desire.  Besides, this almost felt fate-like.  I was ready to give up and it showed up out of nowhere. The process was quick and I got a good feeling in my gut. I love this part of the world and now I will live in it.

Chapter 2 will begin in…

Stay Tuned…

I am not a Tree

I cannot believe that it has almost been 1 year to the date that I last blogged. This past year has been filled with ups and downs, mostly ups and as I have slipped into other social media platforms as a low-key beauty influencer, I have neglected my page. However, we always come home. And sometimes we move.

Since it is official now, I can finally make the announcement public that after 6 years in Qatar, I resigned. This will be my final school year here in this country. My intent was never to stay here forever nor was it my intent to stay for 6 years but here I am.

I have chosen to leave because my conscious has strongly suggested I do. My inner voice has been telling me for some time that it is time to move on and listening to it, thus far in my life, has proven fruitful. I listened to it when it told me to go back to school. I listened to it when it told me to leave my previous job in Philadelphia. I listened to it when it gave me the confidence to move to an Arabic country, despite “neigh-sayers”. And I will listen to it now.

It has been an amazing 6 years of self-growth, exploring, learning, partying, traveling, teaching and so much more. Just to clarify, leaving is a choice just as coming was. Coming here was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my entire life. I have made friends that will be a part of my life forever. I have had experiences that no one else in my Philly circle or family have. I will not go into details about all the things I have done here, you can read my past and future posts for that. But I would advise anyone reading this, contemplating moving overseas to a foreign country, to “DO IT!”.

Where am I off to next? Well, that’s a good question. Let’s just say, I am not a tree. I don’t have roots and my branches sway in the direction of the wind and it’s pretty windy out right now!

Thank you for following my adventures in Qatar. It is time to move on to the next chapter. Am I nervous about this next chapter? YES! Will it stop me? HELL NAH!

(And for my husband’s stalker-ass ex-wife (Mt. Edna, and yes Mt. is short for mountain), who is reading this and digging for fuel, I hope you enjoy living vicariously through me and I hope my glamorous life gives you sleepless nights. I see you and your pathetic.)

Grateful

I think life showed us that we needed a rest…

It has only been a month since my last post but it feels like way longer. Honestly, I haven’t had many ideas to blog about lately and I’ve been pretty busy between work, work, and well being lazy. But life is good. I am beyond grateful for where I am in my life right now. I am alive, healthy; my family is strong and healthy. You know how they say, your body tells you when it needs a rest, I think life showed us that we needed a rest. Sometimes our lives are so fast paced that we forget to take a moment and be grateful. I have a good job, with minimal stress. My bills are paid. My retirement fund is growing as is my savings. These past months, I’ve been spending time on the phone with my family and at home with my husband. My mother and I reconnected. I even treated her to a hotel stay back home. Some people that I am close to have suffered some real hardships this past year and I am grateful that I have been able to be there for them in some way. Life is so precious and I believe that once Covid-19’s death wish slows some, people will appreciate some things a little bit more. At least I hope they will. I don’t believe that life will ever quite be the same though. Most of us will look at things differently and choose differently. I can’t even watch a food tv show without cringing about something or look at past pictures. Like how my husband and I went to Sri Lanka 2 years ago and ate street food from street vendors. It’s a miracle that Covid-19 didn’t come sooner.

Yesterday, I received the first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. It’s free in my host country. I feel okay, minus the sore arm. I have to go back for my second dose in 3 weeks. I was nervous about getting this vaccine however, I want to get back to traveling. Most importantly, I want to go home to see my sons and the rest of my family. I miss them dearly. If getting the vaccine will make that easier, it’s a risk worth taking.

Today is a good day to be alive and to be grateful.

A Review of my Stay at Al Messila Resort and Spa Doha

Al Messila is a beautiful resort but could definitely improve.

It is winter break over here in Doha for teachers and children and in light of Covid-19, I’m sure it does not come as a surprise that I opted out of traveling. I did, however, choose to do a short staycation to see different walls than the ones in my flat. My friend Jennifer and I decided to book a room at Al Messila Resort.

Al Messila is located in the Al Rayyan area of Doha. It’s nestled right off Doha expressway and across the street from the U.S. Embassy. We got a great rate as Qatar Foundation employees and I had heard good things about the resort. Jenn and I were really looking forward to some rest and relaxation.

Although the front desk consists of a few podium desks behind plexi/glass shields, the lobby is beautiful. The high ceiling is grand and the chandeliers majestic. There are several areas to sit surrounded by gold and beige decor. Your bags are checked by security and your temperature and etheraz apps are checked upon entry.

Although we requested two beds, the confirmation did say 1 King (which I should have checked prior) and changing to 2 beds would include at least an hour wait. We didn’t feel like adding an additional hour to our already rather late check in time of 4pm. Since we have traveled together before and are pretty good friends, we decided to share the bed.

We stayed in a deluxe room which was very spacious. I really appreciated the 6 piece bathroom including a separate shower and tub behind the same glass door within the bathroom, the rain shower head and double vanity. The room had a rather long hallway from the door to the bedroom, a wall mounted television, coffee maker, mugs, tea, King bed with 4 rather flat pillows, a table, 2 chairs and a chaise. Our room had a balcony facing the front of the hotel and highway. Next time, I’ll be sure to request a different view. The room was very clean with the exception of a nectarine which was under a chair on our balcony, upon check-in, and remained there throughout the duration of our stay. There were stains on our carpet and the bed was not very comfortable. In fact, my side felt very slept on and I had to move closer to the center of the bed to feel like I wasn’t sleeping on a slope. The Wifi was free though and it worked well. I am awarding the room 3 stars, for the great wifi, space, and wonderful bathroom; unfortunately, 2 stars were sacrificed due the bed, carpet stains and forgotten nectarine.

The hotel grounds are beautiful, with lots of greenery and a large pool. There is a pool bar as well and all of the bartenders and pool staff are nice. Happy hour starts late around 7pm. The cigar lounge was clean and Daniel makes very good drinks. The star of the resort, though, is the Spa. As a hotel guest we were able to enjoy the spa amenities free of charge. You can even catch a golf cart over to the spa. If you are not a guest of the hotel, you can still access the spa for 15o QR. Jennifer and I spent about 2 hours at the spa going from room to room. We took part in the hydrotherapy pools, sauna, steam rooms, relaxation beds and rooms and even pole dancing and trampoline jumping in a pool. During our spa visit, we only saw 3 other guest, so we basically had it to ourselves. You can pay for other services as well, like facials and massages. I really wanted to experience a Turkish Hamam but due to covid, those weren’t on offer. Al Messila gets 4 stars for amenities. The only reason I deducted a star is because of the lack of dining options which unfortunately hits this resort in 2 areas. Let’s talk food and service.

Let’s get right to the point, in this large beautiful hotel, why is there only 1 restaurant? Firstly, breakfast was not included (*correction, breakfast was included, we were not charged) but the buffet is very reasonably priced at only 38 QR and even though breakfast is buffet style, you can not go up and get your own food, precautions put into place due to Covid. This is fine, however, no one informed us about this even after we were sat at a table and left alone for some time. Eventually we called someone over and they explained that everything would be bought over to our table. They were informed about my vegan and Jennifer’s vegetarian diet prior. It took a while to receive our food but I was able to ask for specifics like potato wedges and sauteed veggies. A menu of what’s available would have been helpful, saved time and cut down on waste. Nevertheless we walked away full and satisfied. For lunch we ate outdoors. The chef prepared some vegetable dumplings and french fries for me. The dumplings and several sauces were tasty. That was on our first full day. But the second day was a disaster. We made breakfast reservations for between 9:30-10 and arrived around 9:45. We were told to wait in the lobby as there was already a queue of people waiting. No one took our names down or gave us a number to be called. We waited about 30 minutes before Jennifer said something to the host and we were finally seated. The host seemed to have no idea about our reservation. The restaurant was getting hammered hard and it showed. We requested to just order specific items from the buffet so that everything did not have to be bought over. I ordered simple potatoes and grilled mushrooms and tomatoes, Jennifer ordered avocado toast, and eggs benedict but forgot to tell them no meat, and they obviously forgot our dietary restrictions. They bought over eggs benedict on turkey and a side of meat. She re-ordered and I waited, and waited and waited. Then her fixed order came minus the toast, and I waited and waited. Then she finished and I still sat waiting. We pulled over someone who appeared to be a manager and told him the problem, that we were leaving and I was not paying, as I didn’t eat anything other than a piece of fruit. By this time, I am very upset. He apologized and insisted bringing over the food anyway. A few minutes later, he bought over a plate of mushrooms, sliced avocado and pre-packaged hash browns. The sight of this plate made me angry. It was not what I had ordered. It was not avocado toast. It was not cooked potatoes and the mushrooms were cold. By this time I am furious with the service and I didn’t hesitate in letting the hostess know. There were many complaining guest that day. The service and the food was awful. Knowing that it is winter break, people are not traveling outside of Doha like they used to, due to Covid, this hotel restaurant should have been better prepared. I left out of that restaurant very HANGRY and ready to leave the hotel altogether. I am awarding the restaurant/food and service, 2 stars due to everything mentioned. When I travel, food is high on my priority list especially because of the way I eat. If the food is not right, I usually don’t return.

Things worth mentioning: On our check in day, we received fruit and truffles delivered to our room. This was a nice touch. Later that evening, tea was also delivered. Unfortunately for every good thing, something not so good happened. For instance, after we enjoyed in-room dining on the first night, we called for the tray and dishes to be collected but no one ever came to get them and the room started to smell. On day 2, we saw housekeeping in the hall when we left our room but they never cleaned our room. We had to call down to have our room serviced.

welcome snack

Final thoughts and message to the manager of the Al Messila: This review is based on my experience alone. Everything is true. I travel a lot and write many reviews. Al Messila is a beautiful resort but could definitely improve.

  1. Provide a menu for the breakfast buffet so that people can make choices
  2. Have a vegan menu available. The world is changing; more and more people are going green
  3. Prepare for busier seasons with more experienced staff and write down reservations
  4. Don’t bring people cold food- ever, unless it is supposed to be cold and make sure that everyone at the table gets their food
  5. Keep customers informed. A customer should not have to call downstairs to find out why their room was not serviced
  6. Ensure that room service collects in-room dining dishes or at least checks with the guest within an hour
  7. Flip mattresses
  8. Remove the nectarine off the balcony of room 3012 and get rid of the carpet stains
  9. Move up the check-in time. Half the day is gone at 4pm and with a noon check-out time that isn’t even a 24 hour stay.

Al Messila receives 3 stars from me- Beautiful but below basic in food and service.

***Update: After contacting the hotel manager, Mr. Mallah, he arranged for me to return to try out Al Mesilla restaurant again. There were some major changes made and the brunch is very good. They had a whole section dedicated to just vegans. And it made me wonder, if that will always be there or was that just for me. The service was much, much better. The drinks were good too and so was the food. After this new visit and changes, I may be inclined to stay there again. I appreciate that the manager invited me back to have a better experience. I kind of wish he had covered a night’s stay along with the restaurant visit.

A Review of Sultani Indian Cuisine

Qatar is filled with many undiscovered gems.

On 11/11, my husband and I celebrated our Wedding Anniversary. I can’t believe it has been 9 years. We didn’t do anything big this year, due to Corona and money is tight but he did take me to a nice brunch. He is also in Culinary Arts school and one of his assignments was to take a field trip to a restaurant that allowed him to experience a different culture’s cuisine. We saw a deal on Qgrabs (sort of like a Middle Eastern Groupon) to this Indian restaurant and that is how we found Sultani Indian Cuisine.

Sultani is located within the Swiss Belinn Hotel in Al Sadd. Funny Fact: We were the only ones there. Although this is nothing new for Qatar, the manager said the night time is busier. The deal was for a Diwali tabletop buffet. Diwali, or Dipawali, is India‘s biggest and most important holiday of the year. The festival gets its name from the row (avali) of clay lamps (deepa) that Indians light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness. This festival is as important to Hindus as the Christmas holiday is to Christians. (https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/diwali/)

My husband called ahead to notify them that we are vegan and would not be able to partake in all of the dishes. He also spoke to the manager, Madir (don’t quote me on that name), who was present the entire time, about our dietary restrictions. The manager was very accommodating and kind. The dishes were brought to our table as they were made, which meant that everything was hot, #winning.

Here is a list of all the foods we enjoyed, which was basically everything: Aloo Tikka, Channa Chaat, Kachumber Salad, Namak Para, Pani Puri, Onion Pakota, Vegetable Biryani, Pindi Chole, Garlic Naan and Fruit Platter. The Aloo Tikki was my favorite (that’s the featured image). My least favorite may have been the Biryani due to the vegetable cuts, too big. I have concluded that Indian food may be the most seasoned food I’ve ever eaten. We have been on a diet for 2 weeks and our stomachs could not hold all of the food. We were full half way through but made sure to taste everything. We had seconds of a few dishes too. Mr. Madir, was even nice enough to allow us to take our food home, #winning. This never happens at brunch. I give the food 4 stars.

The restaurant decor was colorful and clean. I really like that you can see the kitchen. The one to one service was amazing. I give the service 5 stars.

For the amount of food we received the price is a steal, 118 QAR for 2 people, approx $32. And there was way more available but because we don’t eat animal products, we didn’t get to experience everything. (Tandoori Chicken, Shish Kabob, etc… was also available) I give the price 5 stars.

In conclusion. We really enjoyed our little private lunch. It wasn’t until we were halfway through the food that I notified the manager that I was a blogger, so I cannot even say it was because of this that everything was so nice.

Qatar is filled with many undiscovered gems and Sultani is one. There is an array of International cuisine restaurants here. You just have to be willing to try something different.

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